"Brain, shake out thy water, dog-like." -- Ron Padgett

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Love-Song of Jenny Lear by Jay Macpherson

Come along, my old king of the sea,
Don’t look so pathetic at me:
We’re off for a walk
And a horrid long talk
By the beautiful banks of the sea.

I’m not Arnold’s Margaret, the pearl
That gleamed and was lost in a whirl,
Who simpered in churches
And left him on porches,
But more of a hell of a girl.

Poor old fish, you’re no walker at all,
Can’t you spank up that elderly crawl?
I’ll teach you to hurdle,
Led on by my girdle,
With whalebone, elastic and all.

We’ll romp by the seashore, and when
You’ve enough, shut your eyes and count ten.
I’ll crunch down your bones,
Guts marrow and stones,
Then raise you up dancing again.


H Gif

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Speaking in Many Tongues

Marwa HelalPoem to be Read from Right to Left


Safia Elhillo: Quarantine with Abdelhalim Hafez

Video reading and explanation


Latasha N. Nevada Diggs, Safiya Sinclair, Layli Long Soldier

Jordan Abel: the Silhouette of a Pole on the shore of the Nass River


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Speaking in Many Tongues: Junot Diaz, Caroline Bergvall

Caroline Bergvall on "Seeing through Languages


Junot Diaz on unintelligibility: around 1'40"

"That as a writer you need a much stronger conceptualization of what readers mean and how readers function on the page. Readers are absolutely accustomed to massive unintelligibility. And without the reader workshop, they’re always saying, “Well, I don’t understand this.” Unintelligibility has always been attacked. Where unintelligibility is an absolutely normative condition of the experience of reading. And a lot of times, a bunch of the shit that we do, people are trying to lay it on some ethnic cultural crap. “Are you sure people are going to understand this? Are you positive that this isn’t too much?” For a reader, if they can make sense of sixty percent of what you write, that’s considered a win. The great joys of reading is that most of what you read escapes us and is only learned or approached through rereading and through contact with other readers. If you don’t have an interesting way of how audience works, you’re making about five times more work for yourself as a writer. Audience helps you shape an economy of signification, and the proliferation of some of these fantasies about how art works—and very unrigorous—it’s not helpful for anybody. The writer with an audience is a powerful artist and I think that’s what the best literature is. We’re overhearing comments that were directed to someone that doesn’t even exist anymore. And the very fact that someone was supposed to receive it charges the words with meaning, significance, and with libidinal energies. You know?"

Ocean Vuong, from "A Little Closer to the Edge."

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Three Poems by Aase Berg

Three Poems by Aase Berg

with English translation by Johannes Göransson



    Viltstängslet har upphört
    fladdermusar fittar sig
    kring krubbet
    Vårt pösmunkfetto slaggar
    i sin goda ro,
    som stötdämpad
    av svallningar
    i knubbet

                            Deformation Zone

                            The wilderness fence has ceased
                            flutterbats cunt
                            around the grub
                            Our doughnut-fatso slops
                            in peace and quiet,
                            as if shock-muffled
                            by ripples
                            in the plump.


    Gilla lunk
    simma lugnt
    stilla flyter gråten

    Bråten flottas
    genom tålamodets hjärna

    Hundåren tar hundra år


                            Like lope
                            swim calmly
                            slowly flow the cries

                            Junk shipped
                            through the patience brain

                            Dog years last a houndred years


    Hålla sig i skinnet
    spänna vingeskinnet

    Drakläge vidgas
    i stilleståndsdans

                            Foot Buoy

                            Hold on to one's skin
                            fasten the wing skin

                            Dragon phase unfolds
                            in a standstilldance


Lisa Robertson: How to Judge

How to Judge


To those whose city is taken give glass
pockets. To those whose quiver gapes give queens
and pace their limbs with flutes, ropes, cups of soft
juice. To those whose threshold vacillates give
that bruise the dust astonished. To falling
heroes give raucous sibyls’ polished knees.
To those who sip nectar give teeth. And if
they still sip nectar—give green chips of wood.
To swimmers give clocks or rank their hearts
among new satellites as you would
Garbo’s skint lip. To scholars, give dovecotes
to virgins, targets. Justice has nothing on them.
Virgil, sweetheart, even pretty fops need
justice. If they think not let creditors
flank them and watch their vigour quickly flag.
To exiled brides give tiny knives and beads
of mercury then rob them of prudence
for prudence is defunct. To those who fist
clouds, give powder. And if their sullen
wallets flap, give nothing at all. Still
I have not addressed lambent fops
swathed in honey, the stuttering moon
Martyrs, Spartans, Sirens, Mumblers, Pawns
Ventriloquists—or your sweet ego

The Beloved Ego in the plummy light
is you. When I see you in that light
I desire all that has been kept from me
etcetera. For you. Since your rough shirt
reminds me of the first grass
pressing my hips and seeds heads
fringing the sky and the sky
swaying lightly to your scraped
breath, since I hear
panicked, my sister calling
since the gold leaves have all
been lost, and you are at least
several and variegated
I toss this slight thread back

The beloved ego on cold marble
blurs inscription. Hey Virgil
I think your clocked ardour is stuck
in the blue vein on my wrist. It stops
all judgement

Mark Strand, from Five Dogs

I, the dog they call Spot, was about to sing. Autumn
Had come, the walks were freckled with leaves, and a tarnished
Moonlit emptiness crept over the valley floor.
I wanted to climb the poet’s hill before winter settled in;
I wanted to praise the soul. My neighbor told me
Not to waste my time. Already the frost had deepened
And the north wind, trailing the whip of its own scream,
Pressed against the house, “A dog’s sublimity is never news,”
He said, “what’s another poet in the end?”
And I stood in the midnight valley, watching the great starfields
Flash and flower in the wished-for reaches of heaven.
That’s when I, the dog they call Spot, began to sing.

SELF-PORTRAIT by Lisa Jarnot

by Lisa Jarnot

Fifty-seven dollars and the four
cents I left on the desk in room 118,
not much else a half a cup of tea,
unfinished books, some phone
numbers, the Wolf Man, tenacity,
one cat, at home in Brooklyn
with the spiders and also 7th
Avenue, the basement of Macy’s,
the L train, the hello lady at
the Korean market on 14th
Street, hardly any smoking of pot,
was thrown out of the Charleston,
have a wheelie-cart for my luggage,
two tranquilizers, four Prozac,
minor elk viewing, movie stardom,
and the greatest waves of
happiness this sixth day of July.

R. Blau DuPlessis, "Draft 85: Hard Copy"

"How to make the confrontation spoken by poetry offer the force of an intervention— so that one feels the whole differently. Beyond one, but inside one. How to talk about the level of art as grounding and arousing. As compassion, empathy, resistance. As respect for the unknown, even the unknowable. As entrance into the intricacy of languages and structures, into the mesh of musical grammars. How to move beyond the 'technology of solutions' by making analysis a verbal saturate. How to produce resonance."

—Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Draft 85: Hard Copy

No poem is totally the poem you meant to write, but every poem you've written is the one you did or could write, brought to the poise or level of interest to which you could bring it. That is, the poem escapes the poem. Or the poem escapes the poet. Or is it, the poem escapes the poetics? With in the simultaneity of making and a sense of loss, something escapes inside the work. This 'escape' authenticates the work.

—Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Surge: Drafts 96-114

Monday, April 17, 2017

Editing and Revising.

"Write like Montreal. Edit like Toronto." —David McGimpsey

1. Line break. 
Add line breaks to the following sentence (the entire text of a poem by Nelson Ball)

Jack Pine

Like a painting of itself in wide short brush strokes its smooth grey bark turns dark and scaly

2. Write the worst poem you can think of.
In what ways can you make it bad (and not just gross or with awful content)?

3. Revision

What is the poem trying to do?
      Are there elements that are interfering with that? 
     Are there ways to make what it is trying to do more effective? More focussed, dramatic, complex, engaging?

Are there other things that the poem could do, possibilities or opportunities that it is missing?

Consider: extra words (redundant, sloppy, unneeded), precise words, clichés, surprises vs. lack of surprises, "energy drops" of content form or image.

How can the poem better establish or embody its own aesthetic?

Can you sculpt the better poem out the existing one?

What can be moved around to make it better? (Reordering stanzas, lines, reversing the whole poem, changing stanza breaks, deleting, adding, cutting own opening or ending for more charge.)

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Seamus Heaney -- Documentary

An excellent interview with the great Irish poet, Seamus Heaney, so well renowned he's known as "Famous Seamus."


Monday, February 6, 2017


What can it be?
We read “Thank you for saying Thank you” by Charles Bernstein http://wings.buffalo.edu/epc/authors/bernstein/reviews/silliman2.html
Varese said that music is “Organized Sound.” Is poetry is “organized language”? (Are Orangutan’s orangutanized apes?)
Does poetry have to be comprised of words? Can it include nonstandard language or communication? The unspellable? The unsayable? The invisible?
Can poetry represent or embody an entirely different way of engaging with the world, with thought, with self, with language? What implicit assumptions are inherent in standard language (grammar, semantics, structures, spelling, lexicon, etc.)?
Does poetry have to “express” anything? Does it have to be filled with feels? Does it have to “mean” anything”?
We listened to “sound poetry” by The Four Horsemen https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=843O0bTVKHQ&spfreload=10
What is the role of reading in poetry? Of interpretation? Of context?
We looked at “The Swan” a shape poem which Michele brought in. She also suggested this poetry video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P4Up0drnXX4
Can a poem be a video game? http://vispo.com/arteroids/indexenglish.htm
A video poem: https://vimeo.com/81195711 a modern revisioning of the Anglo Saxon poem, The Wayfarer.
1. Write a poem about nothing. Or about as little as you possibly can? Is this even possible? Are we meaning-making organisms and will always map some kind of sense or sensibility onto texts, art objects, or indeed, the world?
A couple years ago, I wrote about this and also linked to a VSauce video about the world’s shortest poem.
2. A poem is what is left out. Write a short prose piece about a scar that you got, or else make up a story about one. Tear the prose it in half. Which half makes a better poem? How does what is left out add to the drama, the rhythm, the pacing, the reader involvement, and perhaps makes the “poem” about more than its surface.
3. Haiku.
Traditional Japanese haiku is usually about nature and has a strict syllabic form. Modern English-language haiku doesn’t necessary abide by anything like this. It is usually more about the ‘just-so-ness’ or “a-ha! moment” of juxtapositions in the poem. We listened to a couple haiku by Jack Kerouac: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJdxJ5llh5A&spfreload=10
Here’s a haiku by Ron Padgett:
First: five syllables.

Second: seven syllables.

Third: five syllables.

Write an instant haiku
-write several short sentences each describing something happening in the city
-write several describing something happening in nature

Now choose two city sentences and match them with one nature sentence. Explore which nature sentence creates the most energy when juxtaposed with the city sentence.

Layli Long Soldier writes about the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Layli Long Soldier writes about the Dakota Access Pipeline.